School's Out, Trade's in - How the Nation is Embracing Careers

Published: 13th October 2021 Read time: 13 minutes
Schools out, trades in

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) recently reported that the industry will need more than 200,000 new workers by 2025 to meet the growing demand in the UK, so we decided to explore just how many Brits are interested in a career as a plumber, builder, electrician or similar.

We ran a survey with 2,000 UK adults to gauge perceptions, and then looked into the number of current advertised jobs and salaries, and also apprentices undergoing training in England right now.

This is what we found out.

Millions of Brits are considering retraining in a trade

Our poll revealed that 12% of UK adults are currently thinking about switching to (or starting out in) a career in the trade and construction sector. That works out as 3.7 million working adults!

The most popular trades to work in are:

      1, Plumbing (11% of votes)
      2. Building/construction (8%)
      3. Electrics/electrical engineering (6%)
      4. Joinery (6%)
      5. Painting/decorating

There are currently plenty of jobs to go around

There are currently nearly 100,000 (94,912) advertised vacancies in the trade and construction sector here in the UK, which equates to 8% of all open roles (1.17 million). This has also increased by a massive 345% in the last year alone!

Number of open roles per trade area in September 2021:

      1. Builder/Labourer: 8,127
      2. Electrician: 5,641
      3. Painter Decorator: 3,866
      4. Carpenter 3,491
      5. Plumber/Pipe fitter: 3,251
      6. Specialist welder: 2,411
      7. Joiner: 1,665
      8. Plasterer: 1,488
      9. Roofer: 1,151
      10. Tile: 1,101

Average advertised salary per role:

  • Heating engineer £44,305
  • Carpenter £41,284
  • Window fitter £40,198
  • Plumber/Pipe fitter £38,573
  • Tiler £38,377
  • Electrician £37,780
  • Bathroom fitter £37,158
  • Joiner £36,746
  • Plasterer £35,498
  • Painter Decorator £33,004
  • Floor Layer £32,403
  • Roofer £32,244
  • Tradesperson £30,294
  • Carpet fitter £30,194
  • Tree surgeon £28,883
  • Specialist welder £27,436
  • Landscape Gardener £27,319
  • Builder/Labourer £23,450
  • Locksmith £25,830

Kent, Greater Manchester, South East London, Hampshire and Essex currently have the most trade roles available, suggesting that these areas offer the most potential for people starting out right now.

Areas for the most advertised roles in the trade and construction sector:

      1. Kent: 3,957
      2. Great Manchester: 3,345
      3. South East London: 3,202
      4. Hampshire: 2,889
      5. Essex: 2,803
      6. Hertfordshire: 2,543
      7 Surrey: 2,266
      8. East Sussex: 2,179
      9. Buckinghamshire: 2,025
      10. West Yorkshire: 2,008

Some areas are seeking particular specialists, though. Gardeners are most sought-after in Hampshire (85 current roles), while plumbers are most in-demand in Kent (499). Builders are being recruited the most in South East London (691) and electricians are proving popular in Hampshire (1,817).

Salaries are typically good too

The average advertised salary in this sector is currently £37,939, which is 10.9% higher than the UK average (£34,261). Salaries in this sector have also increased 4.3% year-on-year, which may be reflective of the current skills shortage.

Some jobs could earn you even more though! The trade / construction jobs with the highest advertised salaries are:

      1. Managing Quantity Surveyor: £55,401
      2. Construction Associate: £53,938
      3. Construction Project Manager: £53,282
      4. Quantity Surveyor: £51,917
      5. Project Quantity Surveyor: £51,829

When considering the most popular trade careers, these are the average salaries:

  • 1. Builder: £37,493
  • 2. Electrician: £36,423
  • 3. Plumber: £32,864
  • 4. Painter/decorator: £27,190
  • 5. Gardener: £25,047

Some areas offer higher salaries for particular specialists. Currently, the highest average advertised salaries per role can be found in:

  • Gardener: Manchester, £34,093
  • Plumber: Warrington, £41,889
  • Electrician: London, £49,114
  • Painter/decorator: Surrey, £36,274

Anyone running their own business may earn more, depending on the hours they’re prepared to work, and the area they work in.

An apprenticeship is where most people start out

Most people working in this industry get the skills and qualifications they need to be a plumber, electrician and so on through an apprenticeship, and there are various grants available to help cover the cost of these.

In the current enrolment year (2020-2021), 7% of all apprenticeships commenced in England were in the construction/planning and build environment sector.

The area (in England) with the most construction apprentices this year is Cornwall (350), and the highest percentage of female construction apprentices can currently be found in Stevenage (50%).

Top ten UK areas with the most trade/construction apprentices (2020/2021):

      1. Cornwall: 350
      2. County Durham/Leeds: 300
      3. East Riding of Yorkshire: 270
      4. Plymouth: 260
      5. Wigan: 240
      6. Kirklees/Sheffield: 220
      7. Birmingham: 210
      8. Kingston Upon Hull: 200
      9. Bradford/Wiltshire: 170
      10. Northumberland/Wakefield: 160

Speak to those who have done it

When exploring a new career, it’s advisable to speak to someone undergoing training or already working in the industry so you can find out more about what to expect.

Oli Street, 35 from Leeds in Yorkshire has been studying for a plumbing diploma and intends to take this on full-time when qualified, moving on from his current job in recruitment. He told us: “Plumbing is something that I’ve done elements of previously and really enjoyed doing – I prefer a role that’s hands on and where I can see a project to completion, so it seemed a natural trade for me to pursue.

“At 35, I’m also now in a position where I know what I do and don’t want to do with my career, and I’m monetarily able to retrain. It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years and I’m lucky that my current employer is supportive of my new direction in life and is giving me the flexibility to retrain alongside my current role, as recruiter in the engineering sector.

“In the past couple of years, I’ve completed both my Level One and Two Plumbing Studies Diploma, and I’m currently awaiting the start of an Advanced Diploma Level Three, which is due to start in the coming weeks. I aim to build up my hours of on-the-job training alongside someone in the industry – I’m currently on the lookout for someone to work with locally. I’m very lucky that my Level Three has coincided with the National Skills Fund (NSF) which means the course is fully funded by the Government.

“Following this, my plan is to do my NVQ2, which is a vocational qualification, with the overall goal of starting my own company in the not-too-distant future.

“If you’re considering retraining in this then I’d say go for it. Don’t put it off if it’s something you’re interested in doing and look out for potential funding as there is more available than you may think. Also, don’t be scared of retraining in something completely different - my new role will be a drastic change from the career I’m currently working in and have been progressing within for the past 12 years, but I couldn’t be happier.

“There are plenty of opportunities for work within the industry and lots of different paths you could go down stemming from the same course, so there’s bound to be something to suit you.

How City Plumbing can support you

Here at City Plumbing, our specialist team always looks to offer both new professionals and experienced tradespeople professional advice to assist them with their next project.

Our trade account holders also enjoy discounts on products and can use any of our 350 nationwide branches.

We also have a dedicated careers site, so if you’re just starting out and are looking for a fresh and exciting opportunity why not take a look at our open roles.

About our study

We carried out our research in September 2021, using a variety of sources.

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